Clear and honest information before you buy broadband

28 February 2019

Broadband shoppers must be told how fast their new service will be, before they sign a contract, under new Ofcom protections introduced on 1 March.

The new Code of Practice is part of our work to promote Fairness for Customers, which ensures people get a fair deal and are treated well by their providers.

Under the new Code, broadband firms must give you a minimum guaranteed speed before you buy a service.

If your speed then drops below the promised level, the firm will have one month to improve performance, before allowing you to walk away without being penalised. You will also have the same right to exit any landline and TV packages you bought at the same time as your broadband service.

Broadband firms must also be upfront about what speeds you will receive during the peak times of 8.00pm to 10.00pm for homes and 12.00pm to 2.00pm for businesses, because broadband is typically not as fast during these busiest times of the day.

Fairness for Customers

The new protections are one part of Ofcom’s Fairness for Customers work, and apply whether you are switching to a new provider or changing your current package.

They cover all the major broadband firms signed up to the new Code – BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, which together serve around 95% of home broadband customers.

Here’s how it works:

Graphic illustrating how the new broadband code of practice will work. Under new Ofcom protections, broadband providers must: 1) provide more realistic speed estimates at the point of sale, which reflect peak times 2) always provide a minimum guaranteed speed at the point of sale 3) let customers walk away penalty-free if speeds fall below the minimum guaranteed level 4) give you these rights, regardless of their broadband technology.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “When you sign a contract, you should be treated fairly and know exactly what you’re getting.

“These protections mean broadband shoppers can buy with confidence. Before they sign up, customers will be told their minimum internet speed. And if companies break that promise, they’ll have to sort it out quickly, or let the customer walk away.”

Ofcom research shows that last year only three in 20 broadband customers contacted their provider proactively and renegotiated their deal. This means people could be missing out on better deals, with millions of households able to upgrade to faster broadband for the same or less money.

We're helping you to boost your broadband, switch provider or just renegotiate what you pay. You can also find practical tips for improving broadband speeds on our website.

Ofcom will keep a close eye on companies’ compliance with these new requirements, and will report on their performance next year.

Our work to ensure Fairness for Customers also includes:

  • a major new information campaign and website, Boost Your Broadband, to help people get faster broadband and save money;
  • plans for companies to tell customers about their best available deal when their contracts are coming to an end, and every year after that if they don’t change their deal;
  • reviewing broadband companies’ pricing, looking at why some customers pay more than others;
  • reviewing how mobile operators charge their customers for handsets when these are bundled with airtime; and
  • introducing a simple text-message process to allow mobile customers to switch provider more easily.